Saturday, April 25, 2009

Making hay

Yesterday it was 84 degrees, tonight, exactly 24 hours later, it is snowing. And what is Dave doing in the snow? He is driving the tractor round and round the field. Every spring, before the alfalfa plants have barely sprouted, he drives the tractor over the field, pulling a Rube Goldberg sort of collection of interlocking metal parts behind him. This drag is supposed to knock down the dead weeds (and there always seem to be thistles in our fields), the remnants of the alfalfa that grew up after our last cutting in 2008, and this springs crop of gopher mounds. If we don’t get the field dragged, our hay for this year contains too many un-nutritious, un-tasty old alfalfa stalks, and the ride on the hay rack is rougher and more dangerous than it already is.

If Dave drags the field, our hay will be great – unless it gets rained on - in which case it loses nutrient value and probably molds, or we wait for the weather to clear and cut it too late - in which case it doesn’t have enough protein, or there’s rain coming and we bale it before it is completely dry – and it molds, or we bale it after it has dried too much- and leaves (and much of the protein) fall off.

Making hay is a gambler’s occupation – way too many opportunities to fail. We have learned, however, that the best way to have good hay to feed our sheep is to bale it ourselves. So we keep trying to overcome the odds by doing our best. Some years, driving the tractor round and round the field pulling a drag during a snow shower is the best way to start making good hay.

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